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April 1, 2003

William R. "Bill" Boord - Rest In Peace

John W. Ashbury

This is the story of friendship - two men who shared a lifetime together and now have been parted by death.

William Raymond "Bill" Boord was born in Taylortown, PA. But it wasn't long before his family became friends with a family from just across the state line in Morgantown, West Virginia. He met another 10-year-old named Gene Thomas Mills, "Tom' for short. They became fast friends and remained so for more than 65 years. Their relationship defines the word friendship.

They played together; grew up together; went to different high schools together; were even college roommates. And when one rose to a high station in the newspaper business, the other bailed him out when he was faced with a major crisis, the death of Bill's father, Lawrence.

Bill Boord passed away on March 24, leaving a void in the life of not only his wife of 47 years - Rose Marie, but also in the life of Tom Mills. For what some might think was far too long, and others not long enough, these two were inseparable.

Bill was a star high school athlete. Perhaps we might recognize his name a little more readily today had World War II not disconnected his life, as it did for Tom and so many of their generation. Bill could hit a ball a mile and field with the best of them. At six-foot he was a little short for basketball by today's standards, but he was still a star on his team. But football was where he really excelled. He was a lineman without peer in those high school days.

After the war, he attended West Virginia University and rekindled an interrupted friendship. His roommate was Tom Mills. After college the two went to work for newspapers, but eventually found themselves again sharing space at the Morgantown paper.

Among their cohorts in those days in the 1950s was George B. Delaplaine, Jr., grandson of the founder of The News in Frederick. Of course, by then his uncle Will was running the show and George was getting experience elsewhere to bring back to town eventually. It was a fortuitous meeting - that one in Morgantown between Bill, Tom and George.

Years later George needed a right hand in the newsroom in Frederick. He asked Tom to take over the position and Bill and Tom were separated again.

But it wasn't long before Tom, too, needed a right hand in the newsroom. He thought of Bill and asked George if it would be all right to call him.

As Bill told the story years later, he got a call from Tom. Bill said that Tom told him he was in a bind in the newsroom and wondered if Bill had someone in Morgantown he could send to Frederick to fill the gap.

Bill said he would look around and would have someone there shortly.

When Tom Mills showed up for work the next day, Bill was already there and ready to go to work. He stayed for 25 years, retiring recently as senior news editor, primarily responsible for the afternoon paper. And though Tom later left The News-Post, they remained close, seeing each other often and sharing long ago memories at every opportunity.

Tom started his own weekly newspaper, headquartered in Walkersville. Because he published on Wednesdays, Saturday mornings provided an opportunity to visit in his office with Bill. I was fortunate to share many of those meetings.

You had to love those Saturday morning sessions. Bill and Tom would tell one wild story after another, and laugh so loud on occasion that Tom's wife would come next door to find out what was so funny.

After Bill retired, and after Tom closed his Glade Times & Mountain Mirror, the two friends would get together for some golf a couple times a week. Both had spells of illness during those years, but it didn't deter their plans for golf, although sometimes their plans were canceled at the last minute.

When I walked into the funeral home last week for our last goodbye to Bill, I was not surprised to see Rose Marie, Tom, George, and Bob Dawson already seated in the front pew. Bob lived near Bill in Frederick and was his cab driver on more than one occasion. He, too, shared a fondness for Bill that seemed to transcend other relationships.

Almost immediately the stories about Bill began. Everyone had one to tell. And each one seemed to be better than the last.

When the Reverend Gene Bolin asked during the service if those assembled wanted to say something about Bill, several stood up. Of course, one of the Three Musketeers - Bill, Tom and George - stood up. It was George, and his tribute to Bill was remarkable in its simplicity.

Nancy Luse, now assistant managing editor of The Frederick News Post, recalled a story she had written, which had been published in the morning paper first. It was about a school teacher, and Nancy couldn't remember the content, but she did recall that when the teacher who was the subject of the story called in to complain about the picture of her, Bill had an answer.

Seems the teacher was upset because her teeth weren't in the picture. So Bill, Nancy recalled, took and X-acto knife and scraped away enough of her lips to give her some teeth. It ran in the afternoon paper.

Roy Meachum, the columnist for the News-Post, stood and told of his fondness for Bill, which he said had been forged, not in the newsroom when Bill was working, but rather on the telephone after Bill retired. The two spoke daily, and Roy mused that he wouldn't have anyone to talk to at 7:30 A. M. every day now.

Two of Tom's daughters rose to give emotional voices to their memories of "Uncle Bill." They remembered trying to sneak down the stairs of their home on Friday nights to listen to the conversations as Bill and Tom played poker with other newspaper friends.

We all wondered if Tom would say anything. We all knew how close they had been and were anxiously awaiting his thoughts.

With his voice cracking on every word, Tom said: "See you on the tee." And he gave a little wave toward the casket. That was all he could muster.

Silence enveloped the room for a moment. Then Reverend Bolin read the closing prayers.

Several days later Tom attended a retirement party for another stalwart of the News-Post newsroom - Bob Harper, who is leaving his post after 47 years with the newspaper.

We were talking even then about Bill. With tears welling in his eyes, Tom told me: "Bill Boord was the most honorable man I have ever known." Had he said more, it wouldn't have meant as much as that.

We who knew Bill Boord will miss his smile, his jovial laugh, his knowledge of this town and this community. But most of all, we will miss his friendship. And no one knows that better than Tom Mills.

Rest In Peace - Bill Boord. You lived the good life and were always honest with yourself and with others. You will be missed more than you could ever have imagined.

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